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On October 4, 1957, the world was stunned by the beep-beep of the first artificial satellite. Well, maybe stunned is the wrong word, because anyone following the papers throughout the summer saw that the Soviets had announced quite candidly that they had planned to do so.

It didn't take long for good ol' American know-how, like that provided by good ol' Americans like Wehrner Von Braun, to match the Russians at their game. Thus, Explorer 1 went up less than three months later.

Given the promptness of the American reply, one has to wonder if Ike wanted the first satellite to be Soviet...

Last week, if you followed the presses, American took the lead in the Space Race, at least for the time being. Pioneer-1 blasted off on October 11. Destination: Moon.



Sadly, the intrepid probe didn't quite make it. Still, traveled a good half of the way there, and it returned some pretty interesting science on the way, piercing Van Allen's dangerous clouds of radiation that may pose a permanent barrier to humankind ever establishing an orbital presence.

I understand a second Pioneer is scheduled for launch next month. I'm crossing my fingers and toes!

(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)

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